Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court allows proposed marijuana legalization ballot question to move ahead

The following article was published on http://www.masslive.com on July 06, 2016 at 11:36 AM; updated July 07, 2016 at 9:11 AM.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said in an opinion Wednesday that a proposed ballot question legalizing marijuana can proceed to the November 2016 ballot.

A group of 57 voters, including Westborough’s Josephine Hensley as the lead plaintiff, argued in a lawsuit that the court should knock down the question.

They said the ballot question was improperly certified by Attorney General Maura Healey because it contains two unrelated subjects: the legalization of marijuana for adult use and a potential change to the state’s medical marijuana treatment centers.

The group also argued the ballot question summary, crafted by Healey’s office and used by proponents to gather voter signatures, was unfair because it did not fully explain the ballot question would legalize “hashish” and food products containing THC, also known as marijuana edibles.

But the court allowed ballot question to go ahead and said that all marijuana includes THC. The court added that the title should be changed as well as a statement that voters will see when they receive the ballot. The statement should include the term “edibles,” the court said.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is behind the ballot question legalizing marijuana, claimed victory in a statement issued after the court ruling, saying the voters of Massachusetts will have “the opportunity to make their voices heard about legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana, an approach that is working in Colorado and other states and will work in Massachusetts.”

The pro-marijuana campaign also noted that the SJC called on the attorney general and Massachusetts elections chief Bill Galvin to tweak the title of the ballot question, which is currently “Marijuana Legalization.”

The court ordered that the title of the measure should be changed to “Legalization, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana,” which the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said “accurately reflects the intent of our initiative.” The campaign had asked the court to okay the change.

The attorney for Hensley’s anti-marijuana legalization group did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The Safe and Healthy Massachusetts Campaign, which opposes the ballot question, also claimed victory, citing the court’s mention of marijuana edibles in its decision.

“We are pleased the SJC has recognized that this ballot question would usher in an entirely new marijuana edibles market and that voters must be informed of that fact,” said Corey Welford, a spokesman for the effort. “Under this proposal, the Marijuana Industry would be allowed to promote and sell these highly potent products, in the form of gummy bears and other candies, that are a particular risk for accidental use by kids.”

On Tuesday, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said they had gathered enough voter signatures to make it onto the 2016 ballot. Galvin’s office must validate the signatures, which the campaign said number at over 25,000.

“We received a clear message from voters who signed the initiative: It is time to regulate and tax marijuana in Massachusetts,” Kim Napoli, a campaign outreach coordinator, said in a statement.

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